View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 03:59 am
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PvtClewell
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
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Apparently, it doesn't take much to prompt me, so I'll get the Sickles thread going while keeping that other one about that hill alive...

I'm not a Sickles fan, think he's a pompous ass, but I've played devil's advocate in our local roundtable arguing that by moving the Union Third Corps out to the Peach Orchard and along the Emmitsburg Road, Sickles effectively disrupted Longstreet's attack on July 2, so I'll take that stance here, too.

Let me preface this by saying that the recent tree clearing project at Gettysburg has offered a clearer perspective on Sickles' view of the ground. The Peach Orchard is significantly higher ground than where he was originally posted on the left of Cemetery Ridge near Little Round Top. I can see why he'd like the new position, especially as an artillery platform, even though the move creates a salient in the Union line and leaves Hancock's Second Corps with an exposed flank (not to mention that it goes counter to Meade's orders and also not to mention that the Third Corps gets spread out way too thin for the ground it has to cover).

Given that Lee proposed an en echelon attack on Emmitsburg Road toward Cemetery Hill (damn, there's that hill again), finding Sickles there screws up everything. Hood heads for the Round Tops and McLaws ends up in the Wheat Field. There's fierce fighting, the Third Corps is ultimately decimated, but the en echelon attack never really materializes and fizzles out with Anderson. Momentum is lost, if there was any to begin with. If Sickles isn't there and remains in his original position, does the en echelon attack succeed, or does it lay open Longstreet's flank as he crosses the front of what would be the Third and Second Corps unified line? Hmm. And remember, Sedgewick is approaching the field with the very large Sixth Corps.

As it was, Longstreet nearly succeeded anyway in this fog of war. The Peach Orchard/Wheat Field part of the battlefield is very confusing for me and no matter how many guided tours I take with Bearss, et al, it's difficult for me to digest. Too much taking and retaking the same real estate.

One other thing: I greatly admire the unwavering sacrifice of the 1st Minnesota to plug the gap that slows down Wilcox and Lang of Anderson's division, buying time for Hancock to drum up reinforcements. That's 262 Gophers against 2,500 JoanieRebs. To me, this is the critical moment of the battle: not Ewell on the first day, not Chamberlain, not even Geroge Sears Greene's defense on Culp's Hill.

I asked a battlefield guide how he'd rate Sickles as a political field general, good, bad or indifferent. He thought for a moment then said Sickles, in his view, would have made a good division commander in the Confederate Army. I didn't pursue that one any further.

It's late and I'm going to bed. Can't wait to wake up and read 18 new posts in the morning.

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